Batman and Philosophy

Film director Christopher Nolan’s (The Following, Memento) Batman Begins, begins tonight, well actually tomorrow, 12:01 for the real Bat-fans. Whereas all previous Batman films have captured the “super” in the hero, apparently Nolan’s film is going to answer the question, “How did the “bat” get into the ‘man’?” Although likely far from Nolan’s existential, The Following, one wonders just how deep Nolan will dig to get to Batman’s beginnings?

It appears that heroes of modernism have been replaced by new heroes, post-modern heroes. Intriguingly, on October 14, 2004 the superhero of modernism, Superman, a.k.a. Christopher Reeve, died the same day as Jacques Derrida, the philosophical hero of postmodernism. Far from burying either modernism or postmodernism as ethical and philosophical frameworks, the deaths of these two individuals are reflected in recent Hollywood heroes. For instance, take the recent Jason Bourne of The Bourne Identity. When compared to the smooth, sexy and confident 007 of the James Bond legacy, Bourne appears conflicted, lost and confused. Bond is a indifferent assassin, whose female relationships are superficial and sundry. Bourne, on the other hand, is a conscientious killer, committed to one woman, a woman whom he loses. Bond appears omniscient, whereas Bourne is ignorant. Suffering from amnesia, Bourne is searching for his identity and is happy to have discovered his name. Bond’s egotism generates an unreal and un-relatable personality; he even goes by a pseudonym, 007.

So where does Batman fall in the superhero shuffle? Plagued by the death of his parents at an early age, Batman is a tortured soul searching for justice and identity. Oscillating between the Bond-like Bruce Wayne and the Bourne Batman, the masked hero simultaneously portrays the images and traits of both modernism and postmodernism. So who is he? Well, Mark Reinhart, author of “The Batman Filmography,” thinks that Batman is who we want him to be. In an interview by Mac Daniel of the Boston Globe, Reinhart contends that Batman is meant to absorb all of our perceptions, that “none of us is more right than anyone else,” making Batman everyone’s hero and no-one at the same time, a classic post-modern conundrum. One thing is for sure, Superman or Batman, Bond or Bourne, only One hero does it for me, one who is the same yesterday, today and forever- Jesus the Christ.